Farmland Preservationby Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Posted on 2013-12-13
CASEY. Madam President, today I wish to honor Lancaster County,
Pennsylvania's impressive feat of preserving 100,000 acres of farmland.
Lancaster County became the first county in the Nation to preserve this
many acres of farmland, a full 25 percent of all land available for
farming in the county. My father, Governor Robert P. Casey, served as
Governor of Pennsylvania from 1987 to 1995 and signed into law the
State farmland preservation program. Governor Casey made preserving
farmland a high priority to ensure that Pennsylvania's farmers could
continue to produce agricultural products and sustain the
Commonwealth's number one industry.
Farmland preservation is one of Pennsylvania's noblest accomplishments. There are a lot of words that can describe this achievement. But the one word that I think is most important is the word sacred. This is truly a sacred act. Reflecting on this tremendous milestone, I am reminded of a line from the Prayer of Saint Francis, which reads ``For it is in giving that we receive.'' When I think about conservation, I am inspired by the gifts which flow so directly from the preservation of land. Conserved lands purify our [[Page S8806]] water, clean our air and maintain open spaces. Conserved lands serve as precious wildlife habitat, allowing species to forage and to flourish.
We know that bees, which provide sweet honey and pollinate our crops, are searching for habitat in these modern times. Lancaster County's triumph in conservation helps afford bees, which have lived on Earth for more than 100 million years, a place to inhabit. Another gift created when farmers, foresters and ranchers conserve lands is the knowledge that these critical professions--these cherished ways of life--will continue to have a valued role in American society for many generations to come.
In giving lands over to the committed purpose of conservation, people receive bountiful rewards. As a government official, I believe in the transformative and restorative qualities of conservation easements. I will work to ensure vital conservation programs continue to work for Pennsylvanians and partner organizations, such as the Lancaster Farmland Trust and the Lancaster County Agricultural Preserve Board.
Furthermore, more than half of Pennsylvania and most all of Lancaster County lies within the Chesapeake Bay watershed--and approximately 3 million people live in this area. The challenges of farming in this region are significant. Thus efficient, effective and relevant Federal conservation programs are critical to farmers' success. In advance of the Senate agriculture committee's consideration of the 2012 farm bill, I introduced the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Fairness Act, legislation aimed at helping farmers to better implement beneficial conservation practices and to meet water quality goals in the watershed. The 2013 Senate bill contains portions of this legislation and features additional improvements that better ensure that the remodeled conservation programs will serve the needs of farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
As we move forward with the farm bill, providing farmers in the watershed with the conservation tools included in the Senate bill is extremely important. Federal farm land conservation programs must remain strong. The voluntary conservation programs in the farm bill provide important tools to help farmers comply with Federal and State regulations while keeping farmers in business. Of particular importance to Pennsylvanians are programs like the proposed Agricultural Land Easements program, designed to take over the current Farmland Protection Program, which helps to preserve working farm lands from development. These conservation programs must continue to work for Pennsylvanians and those across the Nation who desire to perform the sacred act of preserving farmland so our future generations can continue to provide us with food, fiber and fuel for the benefit of all.